***3.5 ‘Fake It Till You Make It’ STARS***

An escort ‘party favor’.  Seattle’s hottest alpha playboy.  Four months.  And a cool $250,000.  KL Kreig’s story of facades both imagined and paid for pulled me in with is sultry emotional tug-of-war and its enigmatic puzzle pieces that fit together only to leave me surprised with a new puzzle to solve.  Although it didn’t check all the boxes for me, it’s still a strong story that has me interested in the conclusion to this duet.

“I’ve learned that life is hard, unforgiving.  No one takes care of you but you.”

Drowning in a sea of responsibilities conspiring to pull her under, Willow Blackwell (h) wears a mask of wary apathy she rarely removes.  Struggling with the difficult set of circumstances life handed her she’s living one day at a time doing her best to provide a decent life for herself and her ill mother.  Her career in audiobook narration is taking off…just not fast enough.  She never imagined being a rich man’s arm candy would be the only way out of financial hardship, but here she is, party favor of the hour to Seattle’s elite.

“It’s exhausting being what others want instead of being you.  At least I can use that to my benefit now.”

Life is one big conquest for Shaw Mercer (H).  Successful businessman, mayor’s son and playboy, Shaw has it all. Along with his business partner and wingman Noah Wilder he’s not lacking for hot hookups and parties for three.  Life is good.  Sure his family has some drama, what family doesn’t?  But when your father announces his re-election campaign and simultaneously his need for some positive publicity in the form of his perpetually single son getting and keeping a girlfriend life gets…complicated.  This sexy alpha bad-boy would do anything for his family.  Even if that means he has to give up his carefree hookups and kinky sex life…temporarily.  Or so he thinks…

                “I’m not being heartless, just honest when I say a woman will never be a priority for me.  My company, my family, those are where my focus lies.”

I’m really struggling back-and-forth and probably in the minority with this one.  Straight out of the gate I had problems with the pacing.  The first 30-40% felt heavy with un-necessary information and sluggish story advancement.  I wasn’t interested in the minutiae behind Shaw’s company and only one piece of the information presented here related to the first plot twist revealed in the last half of the book.  Additionally, the excerpts from the author’s previous work used to illustrate Willow’s burgeoning audio narration career felt a little like page filler which was not needed as this book is already over 400 pages.  I did like the pacing of Willow’s flashbacks themselves, they revealed information at a steady pace –  I just had a difficult time with the myriad of additional slow moving story to get to the flashbacks.  Once I got to the halfway point things sped up, but then at the three-quarter mark they slowed again, until finally speeding up lightning fast to the ending and final twist reveal.  This slow-fast-slow-fast pattern just didn’t work for me.  I wanted a faster storyline that built up the suspense and angst factor.  That being said, I did stick with it because the story itself engrossed me and I did want to find out the mystery that was playing out, and that alone says that this is a likeable tale.

“It means Shaw, that I have to draw the line here somewhere.  I’ll admit I’m attracted to you, but I’m just doing what you said.  Defining what this is and isn’t.  I see the end.  I know it’s coming.”

The dynamics and chemistry between Shaw and Willow were a little stilted at first and because of the slower moving storyline I didn’t have a connection until halfway through the book.  The push/pull between the two definitely makes this is slow burning relationship.  While they share plenty of sultry lust filled moments their sexual relationship begins much later in the story – I like that, a lot of books rely on lust and instant sex lately and I appreciated the longer development into intimacy.  Both characters have the requisite baggage that makes it difficult to commit to another human being and fall in love and as we learn why I had some tear-jerking moments as well as ‘uh-oh’ revelations. Brief introductions to family, friends and past connections of Shaw and Willow were intriguing and I’d love to see some of these characters get their own book, or at least a significant storyline, in the future.  In the end I am rooting for Shaw and Willow to get their happy ending and intrigued by the possibilities for the conclusion in book two.

“I hate how he sees me so clearly.  I hate but need it in the same breath.”

While I wanted more from this book, I did like it, and I plan on reading the conclusion to Shaw and Willow’s love story.  If you’re a fan of the author’s work and love slow burning love story of mystery with a few twists and a cliffhanger then give it a try.

“Because in any relationship, there are always tests, and I know we haven’t even begun to take ours yet.”

*I received this ebook as an ARC.  It in no way effects my rating or review.*

K’s Category: 2nd date, read author before

Characters: M/F

Sex: Yes, Descriptive

OM/OW: No

HEA: HFN, Cliffhanger

Standalone: No, Part 1 of 2 in the Finding Me duet

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